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Who invented the internet?

The internet is an amazing thing.

via GIPHY

Some might even call it the best thing ever.

Many would argue that point, but few would disagree that the advent of the internet was one of the most important technological advancements of the past hundred years.

For folks like us here at Phrasee, who put food on our tables by helping companies market themselves and their products through email, it is an indispensable part of everyday life, and it is difficult to imagine our lives without it.

For most of those who make a living in some other way, the internet still plays an integral role in their everyday lives -- from keeping abreast with current events to communicating with friends and family, settling arguments, or even just killing time.

The world wide web, born barely 25 years ago, has worked its way into almost every facet of our modern lives and looks to become an even bigger influence in the decades to come.

So, how did we get here?

One could write a book attempting to answer that question and indeed, many have.

From mankind’s endless ingenuity to capitalist principles of supply and demand and the phenomenon of cat videos, there are many directions one could point, each more valid than the last.

Amid this furor, we find a lengthy list of visionaries, entrepreneurs and geniuses who have all contributed to the cultural revolution that is the internet in their own unique way.

But, Steve Wozniak knows all too well, history is a fickle mistress and she prefers simplicity when assigning credit for such accomplishments.

Which, in theory makes our job a whole lot easier when trying to determine who invented the internet.

And explains why the Steve Wozniaks, Eduardo Saverins and VA Shiva Ayyadurais of the world often get left behind in the dust. Their work and contributions all but lost in the shadows of those with more charisma, ruthlessness and hunger to take credit and bask in the spotlight.

via GIPHY

The tale of the advent of the world wide web, or internet, as we know it today, is no different.

Former US Vice president and Presidential candidate Al Gore tried to lay claim to it at one point.

But he isn’t alone.

The list of those who could be considered for the title of “inventor of the internet” reads like a who’s who list of 20th century nerds.

But, as we have already discussed, in these topsy-turvy times we are currently living in, there is only room for one person on that throne.

Let’s see if we can figure out who it is.

Who invented the internet?

The candidates (accompanied by the funniest photo we could find of each).

Leonard Kleinrock 

Bonafides:

  • Credited with many of the theoretical foundations for computer networking
  • Played a key role in in the development of ARPANET
  • Key player in the birth of packet switching, hierarchical routing and queuing theory
  • Considered one of the earliest computer networking visionaries

 

Robert Taylor 

Bonafides:

  • Credited with creating the concept for ARPANET (the precursor to the internet)
  • Co-wrote “the computer as a communication device” in 1968, laying out the future of what the internet would eventually become
  • Played a key role in the development of “the mouse”

 

Ray Tomlinson

Bonafides:

  • The father of email
  • Creator of the first email system in 1971
  •  First to use the “@” symbol for digital communication

 

Sir Tim Berners Lee

Bonafides:

  • Commonly known as “the inventor of the world wide web
  • Implemented the first successful communication between an HTTP client and a server in 1989
  • Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

 

Dennis Hayes 

Bonafides:

  • Inventor of the modem
  • Developed the Hayes Command Set, still used in modems today

So who was it?

Impossible to say.

The internet, as we know it today, while conceptually envisioned by Kleinrock and Taylor, would not have been possible in any practical sense without the technological contributions of the other folks on this list.

The question is: who invents a thing? The person who came up with the idea or the one who made that idea a reality?

In any case, the internet was created by committee and continues to be advanced in the same way.

The term “inventor” is incredibly tough to apply to anything so multidisciplinary and ambitious.

Our list of candidates, while impressive, probably only represents 1/10 of the story of the internet’s birth.

And, in the end, does it really matter?

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